Scotland

Scot returns from Gaza aid flotilla

Hasan Nowarah
Image caption Hasan Nowarah was a volunteer with the aid flotilla

A Scottish activist who was on board the aid convoy stormed by Israeli soldiers has returned to the UK, the first British citizen to do so.

Hasan Nowarah, from Glasgow, was among 37 British nationals thought to have been with the flotilla when it was intercepted as it headed towards Gaza.

At least nine activists died when commandos boarded the six-ship convoy.

One British national was being treated in hospital and a number were being held in the Beersheva prison.

Israel has now started deporting those who were on board the ships, with more than 120 foreign activists having left the country by Wednesday morning.

Mr Nowarah said he was the first to be sent home because he had sustained a leg injury.

He said: "On Saturday evening we were approached by Israeli warships. At that point the managers of the mission started to consider how to protect the ships.

"They were communicating with our captains, through the radios, warning us to turn back.

"We never replied to them at some points, at others we explained to them we were in international waters and were not attacking Israel."

Mr Nowarah, a British citizen originally from Ramallah, was on the Turkish ship, the Mavi Marmara, but moved to another one before the Israeli troops landed.

'People screaming'

He said the first sign of violence he saw was in the early hours of Monday morning.

"As we finished our prayers all we could hear were people screaming, we looked at the Marmara ship and saw the Israeli helicopters dropping soldiers," he said.

"We heard more screaming and shouting before bullets were fired all over the place.

"On our ship we could hear 'tick, tick, tick, tick' around the body of the ship, but they were not real bullets, it turns out it was paintballing guns they were shooting at us."

Image caption Israeli troops fired live rounds after landing on the ship

He said an Israeli soldier hit him on his back and leg with his gun.

Mr Nowarah, an IT consultant and the chairman of the Justice for Palestine Centre in Glasgow, flew into Heathrow Airport on Tuesday night on his way back to Scotland.

Other Scots on the flotilla at the time were Theresa McDermott, from Edinburgh, artist Clifford Hanley, journalist Hassan Ghani, from Glasgow, and Dundee-based estate agent Ali El-Awaisi.

Mr Hanley's sister Jane said: "I've heard nothing from Clifford at all.

"But I did hear this morning from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, that the embassy staff have been in Beersheva prison, and have spoken to all the British detainees.

"As far as we know, he's safe and well and being deported as soon as possible."

The Israeli government has claimed its forces were shot at and attacked with weapons when they boarded the lead ship, the Mavi Marmara.

The UK foreign office said it was not aware of any British nationals being killed in the raid.

Scotland's Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said that Israel's actions had been "rightly condemned around the world".

HOW ISRAEL RAID UNFOLDED
The flotilla of six ships, including the Turkish ferry Mavi Marmara, was on its way from Cyprus to Gaza carrying supplies including cement, paper and water purification tablets.
HOW ISRAEL RAID UNFOLDED
As the flotilla, still in international waters, neared Gaza, Israeli commandos intercepted the boats from air and sea. This image shows a soldier rappelling from a helicopter onto the upper deck of the ferry.
HOW ISRAEL RAID UNFOLDED
The Israelis say their soldiers were set upon and beaten with bats, chairs and metal poles as soon as they boarded the Mavi Marmara. Activists say the soldiers attacked them first.
HOW ISRAEL RAID UNFOLDED
As the incident escalated, the Israelis used live weapons on the activists, although the exact circumstances are unclear. This still from Turkish TV footage shows first aid being given to an injured activist.
HOW ISRAEL RAID UNFOLDED
At the end of the incident at least nine activists were dead. Israel escorted the flotilla to the port of Ashdod and detained the protesters. An online maritime tracking map shows the route taken by the boats.
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